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Posts published in “Peterson”

Why we can’t solve our problems

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

When Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s million-dollar-a-year executive director, held his press conference on December 21 responding to the Connecticut school shootings, the national response was quick and largely negative. However, what was overlooked by both the
media and the public was the fact that in his response, LaPierre did a fine and concise — although entirely unintentional - job of demonstrating three of the major ills that are keeping this country from solving many, if not most, of the major problems it faces.

The first ill is to always blame someone else and ignore any contribution you may have made to creating a problem. We hear it day-in and day-out in the halls of Congress. Republicans blaming Democrats and Democrats blaming Republicans. Never accept personal responsibility for a problem when you can point the finger at someone else. Assault weapons and large capacity clips didn’t create this problem, according to LaPierre. It’s video games, movies and lack of armed guards that are the problem.

The second ill is to identify a problem and then ask the federal government to pay for it. That is the mind-set that has helped lead us to the serious fiscal problems the federal government currently faces. The NRA offices in Washington must be in a soundproof bunker. Apparently LaPierre is unaware that Congress and the President are currently dealing with serious budget issues that will likely make it impossible for them to consider his proposal that the federal government fund armed guards at every school building in the United States. If he is really serious about obtaining the support of Congress and the President for his proposal, and he really thinks that those guards will eliminate school shootings, while protecting second amendment rights, he should consider recommending the means of paying for it.

Two privileges the government gives me that I enjoy are driving motor vehicles and fishing. I drive on roads that are largely funded by persons like me who use them, with fuel taxes and registration fees. The same with fishing. I buy an annual license and those fees are used to support the state’s fisheries program. If you don’t want to enjoy the privileges of driving or fishing, you don’t have to pay. The same could be true with the proposal to protect the rights of gun owners by using armed guards at schools. (more…)

Interesting times for the Forest Service

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

I recently moderated a forum for City Club of Boise featuring U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. Tidwell grew up in Boise before his family moved to Spokane, where he graduated from high school. He took classes at both the University of Idaho and WSU and received a degree in range science from WSU.

At a time when federal funding is threatened, forest fires are on the increase, forest restoration needs are growing, and timber harvests on federal lands have declined, it is a challenging time to be the head of the Forest Service.

Idaho has a greater share of its land mass in national forests than any other state. 38% of Idaho is part of the national forest system. Of Idaho’s 20.4 million acres of national forest land, an estimated 15 million acres are overgrown and vulnerable to the risk of wildfires. Last summer’s fires burned 1.7 million acres of forest and rangeland. The Forest Service spends 42% of its budget on firefighting and nearly one-third of its employees are firefighters.

Tidwell says that in recent years the annual acreage burned by wildfires has increased dramatically and has burned in excess of 8 million acres six times since 2004 and could reach 12 to 15 million acres in the near future. In addition, 30,000 homes have been destroyed in the last ten years, including 3,000 this year. Fire seasons are also running 60-70 days longer than before, with the days over when snows came in September and ended the fire season. Causes for this dramatic increase include past forest management practices, insect infestations and climate change.

Tidwell says that the Forest Service in now making forest restoration one of its highest priorities. Forest restoration includes hazardous fuels reduction, protection and restoration of critical habitat, including riparian areas and watersheds. In areas where restoration has taken place, oncoming fires drop from the crowns and become more manageable.

As an example of the benefits of fuel reduction, Tidwell said that this year’s Mustang Complex Fire north of Salmon covered 340,000 acres and that the work done on a logging project in the area helped fire fighters keep the fire from engulfing U.S. 93, the primary highway route in that
part of the state. (more…)

Losing money in a weak economy

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

There has recently been a lot of talk about the group of Americans known as The One Percent. The term refers to the one percent of Americans who control something like forty percent of the nation’s wealth. Presumably, the wealthiest of these individuals, unless they inherited their wealth, are people who are intelligent, have a high work ethic and think strategically when making business decisions.

So, at a time when there has been so much talk about the overly long recovery from the last recession, where do these wealthy individuals invest their money? Following tips from their Fox News advisors, the smart investment was in Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.

The talking heads on Fox said for months that this was a sure thing. As it turns out, as financial advisors, they were right up there with Bernie Madoff.

Take the billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. He made his billions off of people who bet and lost and when it came to making political donations, he proved no luckier than most of his customers. He spent $53 million on nine political races and had only one winner. The one winner was in the Texas Senate race where he actually supported two candidates.

Then there are the Koch brothers, Charles and David. They were reported to be prepared to donate something in the neighborhood of $400 million to a variety of tax exempt groups that are not subject to federal campaign finance disclosure. Their top priority was to support candidates who will weaken environmental regulations and stop the move away from coal to cleaner sources of energy. Presumably, that would have come with Republicans solidly in control of the House, Senate and White House. In the end, it was not one of their better investments.

One of the super PACs into which many of those wealthy one-percenters poured contributions was the one run by the former Bush political operative Karl Rove. Rove has been largely
viewed as one of the shrewdest and most effective political operatives of the current generation. (more…)

Emile Allais

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

Emile Allais died two weeks ago. No individual who has lived in Idaho ever had a greater impact on his sport, although a close runner up would have to be Dick Fosbury, a long-time Ketchum contractor. Fosbury won the gold medal for the high jump in the 1968 Olympics. His revolutionary backward dive over the bar became known as the Fosbury Flop and is now used by virtually all of the world’s high jumpers.

There have been other athletes who have lived in Idaho at some time or another who have had major accomplishments in their chosen sports, but none with a major influence on their sports as great as Allais and Fosbury. Keep in mind that being great and having influence are two different
things.

Dan O’Brien, a University of Idaho track star, won the gold medal for the decathlon in the 1996 Olympics and was called, at the time, the world’s greatest athlete. But he has had no apparent lasting impact on the way decathletes compete in their sport.

Two other greats were Betty Ellis from Clarkston and Barbara Peturka from Orofino who, fifty years ago, dominated the world of women’s log burling with a series of world championships.

One of the greatest rodeo stars with Idaho connections was Jackson Sundown, a member of the Nez Perce tribe, who won the all-around cowboy title at the 1916 Pendleton Roundup when he was 53 years old. Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, wrote a novel based on Sundown’s 1916 Pendleton Roundup appearance titled The Last Go ‘Round. He died in 1923 and is buried at the Slickpoo Mission Cemetery near Jacques Spur.

Two other rodeo competitors who come to mind are Dean Oliver of Nampa and Bonnie McCarrol of Boise. Oliver won eight world championships in calf roping and three times was world champion all-around cowboy. McCarrol was one of the outstanding women rodeo riders back in the day when women were allowed to compete in bareback and saddle bronc riding and bulldogging. She died at the 1929 Pendleton Roundup when a horse fell on her and that was the end of women competing in bronc riding. Sadly, it could probably be said that McCarrol had the ultimate impact on her sport, since her death led to its being banned from rodeo competition.

Another great Idaho horse rider was Caldwell’s Gary Stevens. He started his career as a jockey at Boise’s Les Bois Park and went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes three times and the Preakness once. His mounts have collected over $221 million with 4,888 winners.

Walter Johnson pitched for the Weiser Kids during the 1906-07 seasons, where he was said to have pitched 84 consecutive scoreless innings in one stretch. He left Weiser and signed a contract with the Washington Nationals (later the Senators) and became one of the first five
players inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also named to the Major League Baseball All-Time Team.

And, of course, there was Harmon Killebrew of Payette. When he retired from major league baseball he was second only to Babe Ruth in American League home runs and is now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Picabo Street, Christin Cooper and Gretchen Frasier, all from the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, all were Olympic medalists and, at various times, the best in their fields. Which brings me back to Emile Allais. I say he had greater impact on a sport than anyone else who has lived in Idaho.

You say you’ve never heard of him. I’m not surprised. He was 100 years old when he died on October 17 and his major impact on his sport was well before most of those reading this column were even born. (more…)

Avoiding World War III

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

Today we're adding a new column by Martin Peterson, co-author of the Idaho 100: The People Who Most Influenced the Gem State. He has decades of experience (more than could even be summarized here) in Idaho politics, government and social history. Welcome!

Fifty years ago, in October 1962, I was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, attending a communications school. Ft. Sill was home to the U.S. Army’s Artillery and Missile School. I was the ranking enlisted person in our class and, as such, was in charge of my platoon. On the afternoon of October 22 I was instructed to have my platoon gather in our unit’s dayroom that evening to watch a televised speech by President Kennedy. The purpose of the speech was to inform the nation that the Soviet Union had installed intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States.

We were then notified that the entire U.S. military had been placed on a DEFCON 3 alert. DEFCON stands for defense readiness condition and the highest level of alert is DEFCON 1. By way of example, after the September 11, 2001attacks, the military was placed on a DEFCON 3 alert.

The next morning, we moved out into the field to participate in maneuvers with other Ft. Sill units. We ended up encamped near an Honest John missile unit. The Honest John was the country’s first U.S. nuclear surface-to-surface missile. That morning, the Strategic Air Command was placed on a DEFCON 2 alert, the only time our country has ever faced that level of alert.

Usually you will hear a lot of rumors floating around a military unit at a time like this. But not this time. Everyone seemed to know that this was a matter between President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev. And there was also a general awareness that the U.S. and Russia were remarkably close to going to war. Not a comfortable feeling sitting in a tent in Oklahoma in the midst of the Army’s primary missile training facility.

Following around-the-clock intense negotiations, on October 28, after a pledge by President Kennedy that the U.S. would not invade Cuba if the missiles were withdrawn, Khrushchev announced that they were pulling their missiles from Cuba. On October 29, all returned to normal at Ft. Sill.

Fast forward to February 13, 2007. I am at one of my favorite locations in the world. Sitting on the outdoor plaza of the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba, with a glass of Havana Club rum and a Montecristo No. 2 cigar, looking out over Havana Bay with a Cuban musical combo playing background music. I had done this before on previous trips to Cuba and it is always a highlight of the trip. It is also a long ways away, both geographically and time wise, from sitting in a tent at Ft. Sill Oklahoma. But maybe not so far away as it would seem.

The grounds of the Hotel Nacional slope down to a spectacular view of Havana Bay and the Malecon, the highway that runs along the bay. If you had been standing there on February 15, 1898, you would have had a grandstand seat to watch the sinking of the battleship Maine.

On previous visits I had noticed a door leading underground and some rock lined trenches on the hotel’s grounds. I assumed it had something to do with the infrastructure that supports the hotel and its grounds.

This time I found myself talking to an elderly Cuban man who spoke pretty good English. I asked him about the doorway and the trenches. He asked if I would like a tour. As we walked toward the door, he told me that he had served in the Cuban Army in 1962 and, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, known as the October Crisis in Cuba, he was assigned to a surface-to-air missile unit. During the crisis they had dug the trenches on the hotel grounds and placed a missile installation in them to protect Havana from any U.S. air attack.

Opening the door revealed a stairway connecting to the trenches. We went down the stairway and he took me on a tour of the entire missile complex, which had been abandoned many years earlier. It turned out to be a complete underground military complex, even if it was somewhat primitive by even 1962 standards. It was an incredible step back into the past for me. Now I was experiencing first-hand what the Cubans had experienced while I was on DEFCON 3 alert at Ft. Sill. The similarities were remarkable. The Cubans had been just as convinced that the U.S. was preparing to attack them as we had been convinced of the potential of a Soviet missile attack from their Cuban installations and they were prepared to defend their country at all costs.

Fortunately, not only for the U.S., Cuba and the Soviets, but for the entire world, calm heads and diplomacy finally prevailed and all sides came out ahead. But for seven days in October, 1962, both sides sat on the brink of what might well have become World War III. It is an anniversary that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Marty Peterson is an Idaho native. He is retired and lives in Boise.